In the beginning — of both movies and books — is the word. Many classic Kiwi films and television dramas have come from books (Sleeping Dogs, Whale Rider); and many writers have found new readers, through being celebrated and adapted on screen. This collection showcases Kiwi books and authors on screen. Plus check out booklover Finlay Macdonald's backgrounder.
For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
Launched on 5 April 1976, Winners & Losers heralded a new age in Kiwi screen drama. Indie talents Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune based their tales of success and failure on New Zealand short stories, after managing to negotiate funding from various government sources. Then the pair took the series to Europe, proving there was strong overseas demand for Kiwi stories. In the backgrounders, Mune recalls the show's origins. There are also pieces on its place in local screen history, and its 2018 restoration. Plus watch two video interviews on the series.
This excerpt from Holmes features a rare interview with author Janet Frame, filmed in 2000 to mark the release of Michael King's Frame biography, Wrestling with the Angel. Reporter John Sellwood visited Frame at her Dunedin home, along with King, who is also interviewed, and provides some valuable perspective on Frame's writing. Sellwood charmed Frame by playing the bagpipes, which reminded her of her father, but she is still a reluctant interviewee, who prefers to chat about lighter topics than reflect on her distinguished literary career.
One of those Blighters began life as a doco on Taranaki novelist Ronald Hugh Morrieson, but after interviews with many who knew him, morphed into something more offbeat: a semi-fictionalised tale of Morrieson’s mates reminiscing about his departure, interwoven with highlights from his tales of drunkards and con artists. The dramatisations are from his four novels - all became movies - plus one posthumously published short story. Amidst a cast packed to the rafters with carousing Kiwi screen legends, fellow multi-talented muso Bruno Lawrence plays Morrieson.
Under the Covers is a spin-off series from the TVNZ 7 book series The Good Word, compiling reporter Finlay Macdonald’s 10-minute pieces on great New Zealand books into a programme of their own. Each episode features three books and tells the story behind them with a mixture of interviews, readings and archive footage.
The last novel by Taranaki author Ronald Hugh Morrieson revolves around a freezing plant worker (Peter McCauley) in an inter-racial marriage. The role of an English remittance man was expanded in a failed attempt to cast Peter O'Toole (the role ultimately went to NZ-born Bruce Spence). Morrieson's view of small town NZ is a dark one, as he explores racism, violence, murder, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes to Jonathan Crayford's jazz-tinged score, and features in the wedding band. The freezing works scenes were shot at the defunct plant in Patea.
Scriptwriter Philippa Boyens has described Alice Sebold's bestselling book The Lovely Bones as "brutal, surprising, gorgeous". A tale of murder and how the victim's family and friends try to deal with it, the story is told from the perspective of the victim — 14-year-old Susie Salmon. For the movie adaptation. Peter Jackson and his Weta FX team engaged in more Heavenly Creatures style world-building, rendering an afterlife for Susie that "alters and shifts" with her mood. Time praised the film's "gravity and grace", plus Saoirse Ronan's BAFTA-nominated performance as Susie.
Under the Covers was a spin-off series from TVNZ 7 book series The Good Word, compiling Finlay Macdonald’s 10 minute pieces on great Kiwi books into their own show. Each episode features three books and tells the story behind them via interviews, readings and archive footage. This episode featured Barry Crump’s A Good Keen Man, David Lange’s My Life, and — in this excerpt — Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River, the 1917 novel that some say was an uncredited inspiration for Jane Campion's The Piano. Sam Hunt provides a spirited defence of Mander's book.
Died in the Wool was part of a TV anthology adapting the murder mysteries of Dame Ngaio Marsh. MP Flossie Rubrick has been found dead in a wool bale, and it's up to Inspector Roderick Alleyn (UK actor George Baker — Bond, Z Cars, I, Claudius) to unravel the secrets of a South Island sheep station. The tale of a cultured Englishman amidst World War II spies, Bach and seamy colonial crimes — like Marsh's books — found a global audience: it was the first NZ TV drama to screen in the US (on PBS). Includes a Cluedo-style sitting room inquest and a wool shed reveal.